Legal Fees

Breaking The Rules

Near the end of my career, at a time when I frequently congratulated myself (since no one else would listen) about how brilliant I was at dealing with clients, I lost a long-standing client who I will call Charles. I should have fired Charles years before and was holding onto for some twisted sentimental reason.

One day, Charles called and asked me for a referral to a financial guru to discuss the transfer of his business to his son. I knew just the guy, so I set up a meeting which had to be in the evening because Charles was a very important man. Some would say a legend in his own mind.

I wasn’t sure that my presence was actually required in the meeting, but in a call before the meeting, Charles said “I will see you Thursday night” so it seemed to me that Charles wanted me there. That would not have been at all unusual. Many of my clients would have wanted me to be at that type of a meeting simply because of my familiarity with their affairs and the value that they placed upon my judgment. So I went to the meeting. I gave up an evening with my family and with travel spent 3 hours on the matter. My guru handled most of the meeting. My contribution was not overwhelming.

Charles knew perfectly well that I charged by the hour at a rate of $550.00 at the time.

After the meeting I looked at my docket of $1,650.00 and decided that in the circumstances I would bill Charles only $600.00. I sent the bill to Charles. Charles called to complain. I explained how I had approached it. Charles then paid the bill. However, there was a reason that I should have fired Charles years before. He was a whiner. For months afterwards he whined about how I had ripped him off by billing him anything for the meeting. So I fired him. Or he fired me. I don’t really remember. I was just delighted to see him go.

I had broken two of my most important rules, being: (1) my rule about being clear in my communications with clients about what things were going to cost; and (2) my rule about not representing jerks.

My point? Act for nice people and communicate clearly, especially about legal fees.

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